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Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 Exit Interviews: Ahkello Witherspoon and James Pierre

Both cornerbacks got their shot at a starting position in 2021.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 NFL season has come to a close. Because the Steelers are among the 31 teams who did not finish fulfilling their ultimate goal, they are in the process of wrapping up their season and moving forward into 2022.

Since the Steelers conduct exit interviews with all their players, we here at BTSC thought we would do the same. By outlining two players each day, we will be able to look at their season in retrospect as well as looking toward the future. Since Coach Tomlin stated he starts his interviews with rookies, first year players, and those heading into free agency, we will do the same. To start, we will pair a potential free agent with a first-year player as we work through this process to eventually cover the entire Steelers roster.

Next up is cornerbacks Ahkello Witherspoon and James Pierre


Ahkello Witherspoon

NFL: DEC 09 Steelers at Vikings

Position: Cornerback
Years with the Steelers: 1
Years in the NFL: 5
Contract Status: Free agent
Contract Details: No extra money in regards to the trade, but the Steelers owe a 2023 fifth-round pick to the Seattle Seahawks
Games played in 2021: 9 regular season, 1 postseason
Games started in 2021: 3 regular season, 1 postseason
Snaps (regular season): 368 (defense), 20 (special teams)
PFF score: 75.8 (14th of 120)
Notable stats (regular season): Witherspoon had 15 tackles, one of which was for a loss, nine passes defensed, and a team-high three interceptions.

Notes: Called on in Week 2 when Joe Haden was out with an injury, Witherspoon played four defensive snaps yet still gave up a touchdown. Not getting a helmet again until Week 11, Witherspoon slowly showed the Steelers what he was capable of and earned himself a starting position by Week 13. After leading the Steelers in interceptions, Witherspoon showed not only that the Steelers trade was worthwhile, but also that he’s earned another contract if they can work out the details.


James Pierre

Denver Broncos v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Position: Cornerback
Years with the Steelers: 2
Years in the NFL: 2
Contract Status: Signed through 2022 (will then be a restricted free agent)
Contract Details: $898,000 salary cap hit for 2022. Would cost the Steelers $3,000 in dead money if released.
Games played in 2021: 17 regular season, 1 postseason
Games started in 2021: 4 regular season
Snaps (regular season): 414 (defense), 244 (special teams)
PFF score: 58.1 (86th of 120)
Notable stats (regular season): Pierre had 47 tackles, three forced fumbles, four passes defensed, and an interception.

Notes: Having the opposite trajectory of Witherspoon, James Pierre was the next man up at outside corner until he struggled in Week 12 against the Cincinnati Bengals. After that point, Witherspoon became the man and Pierre did not play another snap on defense. With another year left with the Steelers under contract, Pierre needs to show he can be the player the Steelers thought he was coming into 2021.


So what do you think? How would you conduct Witherspoon’s and Pierre’s exit interview? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Make sure you check back each day for another set of exit interviews. If you have missed any of the previous articles, they are listed here:

Ben Roethlisberger & Najee Harris
Eric Ebron & Pat Freiermuth
Trai Turner & Kendrick Green
Chuks Okorafor & Dan Moore Jr.
Robert Spillane & Buddy Johnson
Montravius Adams & Isaiahh Loudermilk
Joe Haden & Tre Norwood
Christian Kuntz & Pressley Harvin
JuJu Smith-Schuster & Cody White
J.C. Hassenauer & John Leglue
Marcus Allen & Tegray Scales
James Washington & Chase Claypool
Taco Charlton & Alex Highsmith